Barry Season 2 (HBO)
Written by Alec Berg, Bill Hader, Taofik Kolade, Jason Kim, Duffy Boudreau, Emily Heller, and Liz Sarnoff
Directed by Hiro Murai, Minkie Spiro, Liza Johnson, Bill Hader, and Alec Berg
The tagline for Barry is “a hitman tries to make it as an actor,” a premise which sounds like the worst Hollywood pitch of the post-Goodfellas 1990s. Think about pictures like My Blue Heaven or Analyze This, where mob stereotypes are played for laughs. It’s the theme of Barry that keeps us coming back every week, “Can people who have done bad things still be good people?”. Co-creator and star Bill Hader, known for his comedic chops honed on Saturday Night Live, manages to find the perfect middle ground where he can have moments to play things for laughs but then flip things around in an instant to discover the most heart-rending moments of pathos. Barry is a funny tragedy.
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Force Majeure (2014)
Written & Directed by Ruben Östlund
Tomas, his wife Ebba, and their two children are on a skiing vacation at a luxury resort in the French Alps. While eating lunch on the deck of a restaurant, they witness a controlled avalanche that suddenly becomes much scarier and looks to threaten their safety. Tomas runs leaving his family behind, but the incident turns out not to be dangerous. The rest of their trip is plagued by the fact that the patriarch abandoned his family in the face of potential death. This is exacerbated when Tomas’ old buddy Mats shows up with his much younger girlfriend, Fanni. Mats tries to defend his pal, but that creates friction in his and Fanni’s relationship. The two men suddenly find themselves questioning their masculinity and place as the “heads of their families.”
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Written by Annie Mumolo & David O. Russell
Directed by David O. Russell
In 1990, Joy Mangano found that her life has not gone how she wished. As a little girl, she invented things and had such a creative mind. As a result of her parents’ divorce, her marriage ending, and an overwhelming tide of financial hardship Joy is at a turning point. A trip on her father’s girlfriend’s boat leads her to a serendipitous moment, the invention of a new self-wringing mop, with a mop head of 300 continuous feet of cotton with the ability to be detached and run through the washing machine. To make her invention a success it will take many risks and Joy ends up putting her neck on the line for a spot on QVC. However, she is a determined woman who will do whatever it takes to raise herself from a fate of mediocrity.
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Pen15 Season 1 (2019, Hulu)
Written by Maya Erskine, Anna Konkle, Sam Zvibleman, Jessica Watson, Andrew Rhymer, Jeff Chan, Gabe Liedman, and Stacy Osei-Kuffour
Directed by Dan Longino, Andrew DeYoung, and Sam Zvibleman
It’s 2000; Maya and Anna are starting middle school. The two young ladies have been friends for as long as they remember, but nothing will test the strength of their friendship more than this time in their lives. They must deal with boys, parents in crumbling marriages, band, cliques, periods, and their first multi-night sleepover. The thing is, Maya and Anna are played by two women in their early 30s recreating their youth. While the characters in the universe of the show see thirteen-year-old girls, the audience is fully aware of the reality of the actors in the roles.
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Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Written & Directed by David O. Russell
Pat Solitano’s mom picks him up from a mental hospital in Baltimore, despite the doctors saying he’s not ready yet. Eight months earlier, Pat came home to find his wife in the shower with a co-worker which sent Pat into a frenzy. He’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but believes he doesn’t need meds or a psychiatrist; Pat requires positive thinking. His dad, Pat Sr. shows all the signs of OCD and likely has some undiagnosed issues himself, and he thinks the time he devoted to the elder sibling is what led to his younger son becoming so volatile. Through an acquaintance, Pat meets Tiffany, a widow who has very similar challenges with social cues as Pat does. The duo verbally spars, and there is the spark of an attraction, but Pat is convinced he can get his wife back if he stays on his path of self-improvement. Tiffany sees his wife regularly and promises she’ll deliver a letter to her if Pat pledges to be her dance partner in an upcoming competition. This was an event her late husband would never do with her, and it has become Tiffany’s primary focus. Pat hesitantly agrees with hopes he’ll end up reunited with his former bride.
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An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn (2018)
Written by Jim Hosking and David Wike
Directed by Jim Hosking
Lulu Danger is stuck in an unsatisfying marriage to Shane, the manager at Bob’s Coffee. One day, while she lounges around watching television, a commercial comes across the screen for a magical evening with an enigmatic figure named Beverly Luff Linn. Lulu paws through a dresser drawer to uncover photographs of her and this Mr. Beverly from some time in her past. Meanwhile, Shane steals money from Lulu’s vegan cousin who in turn hires a drifter named Colin to retrieve the cash. Lulu uses this as an opportunity to run off with the money and Colin to the hotel where Beverly will be performing. She hopes to rekindle whatever old flames existed between the two of them. What she didn’t count on is Rodney von Donkensteiger, Beverly’s handler or the fact that Colin is falling in love with her.
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Arrested Development Season 5 Part 2 (Netflix)
Written by Mitchell Hurwitz, Hallie Cantor, Richard Day, Evan Mann, Gareth Reynolds, Chris Marrs, and Jim Vallely
Directed by Troy Miller
In 2003 Arrested Development debuted on Fox and was a breath of fresh air in the television landscape. It combined elements of classic television like Soap and the banter of The Golden Girls (where Mitch Hurwitz cut his writing teeth). There was a labyrinthine plot that rivaled Lost and inspired just as many rewatches. Arrested was the first show where I saw callbacks to jokes that hadn’t happened yet. The primary example being all the foreshadowing about hands in season 2 that led up to Buster’s hand being eaten by a loose seal. The show was referencing an event that hadn’t happened yet, but these visual gags and pieces of dialogue would be heightened when fans went back to the episodes for a second time. It was some truly brilliant and inspiring television. Then we reach today.
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